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The Ph.D. in Cognitive Science gives the student the opportunity to focus on a content area within cognitive science, such as language, vision, or learning, which is profitably studied from the perspectives of multiple disciplines. Although students in the program become relatively familiar with one of the disciplines, through the required minor, the emphasis is on proficiency in the important methodologies and tools — the relevant mathematics and logic, philosophical investigation, computer modeling, behavioral research in psychology and neuroscience — and how these are applied to the study of particular problems within the student's content specialization area. Students who wish to combine a solid foundation in a particular discipline with the inter-disciplinary perspective of cognitive science may wish to consider the Joint Ph.D. in Cognitive Science and another discipline.
Students should decide on a supervisor and topic for their projects by the end of their first year and submit the Research Project Progress Report Form to the Cognitive Science Program office. The project must be completed by the end of their second year; at this time they should submit the Completion of the Research Project Form and a copy of their project report.
The project should constitute significant original research done while the student is enrolled in the PhD program. With permission from the the student's project supervisor and the Cognitive Science Program office, the project report may take the form of two refereed conference papers on related topics rather than a single report.
Each student is expected to pass a Qualifying Examination, by the end of September of the student’s third year in the program. If the student fails the exam, it may be retaken once, by the end of the student's third year.
Prior to the qualifying examination, each student will be expected to turn in the Qualifying Examination Petition Form with the signatures of the Director of Graduate Studies and Advisory Committee.
Students pursuing joint degrees in Cognitive Science and another discipline may postpone the taking of the Qualifying Examination by one year. Any other students who believe they are unable to complete the Qualification Examination by the normal deadline must petition to have the deadline extended.
The examination is expected to have a written and an oral component and to demonstrate (1) in-depth knowledge of the student's Content Specialization, (2) knowledge of some other area of Cognitive Science, (3) academic writing competence, and (4) the ability to defend a position in an oral setting.
In consultation with his or her Advisory Committee, the student will agree on the format of the examination. Within these constraints, two broad categories of Qualifying Examinations are possible.
1. Conventional Written Examination
The student and his or her committee agree on a set of topic areas and readings. The topics must include at least one area outside of the student's Content Specialization and must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies. The student then has three months to prepare for the exam, normally during the summer following the second year in the program.
Each committee member writes one or two questions. The student has two days, four hours per day, to answer the questions, using any resources he or she wishes to bring to the examination room. Within a week, the committee evaluates the student's answers. The student does not normally receive feedback from the committee but may discuss the answers informally with members of the committee in preparation for the oral portion of the exam. The student meets with the committee within two weeks after submitting the answers to orally defend his or her answers and respond to follow-up questions. If the committee agrees that the student's written and oral answers are satisfactory, the student has successfully passed the qualification exam. Otherwise, the committee may fail the student outright or may require the student (1) to elaborate further in written answers to one or more questions or (2) to answer in writing one or more additional questions. If the student satisfies the committee with these additional assignments, he or she has successfully passed the qualification exam; otherwise, the exam is considered failed and must be completely retaken.
In consultation with his or her Advisory Committee, the student selects topics for three qualifying papers. Two of these topics are expected to be within the student's Content Specialization, and these should address at least two of the different methodological approaches to that content area.
The third paper can deal with a topic in any other area of cognitive science but must be outside the student's Content Specialization. The topics must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies. Each paper should answer a question. An example of a recent Qualifying Examination paper question is: How might simulation-based models help to clarify or dispel the view of communication as information transmission? With the approval of their advisory committees, students are encouraged to write papers that can contribute directly to their professional progress. Examples are documents that can be submitted as publications or, for US citizens or permanent residents , as narratives accompanying grant proposals (NIH National Research Service Awards, NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program).
The student is given the period of three months during the summer following the second year in the program to write the papers. During this time, he or she may consult any works on the paper topics but may not discuss the topics with others. Questions to the committee should only concern procedural matters. After the papers are submitted to the committee, they are evaluated by the committee members, normally within a period of a week, and returned to the student with comments. Next the student meets with the committee to defend his or her answers orally; the oral portion of the exam should take place within three weeks of the submission of the papers. Based on the written answers and the oral defense, the student may be passed immediately, failed outright, or required to rewrite one or more of the papers and possibly also to meet with the committee again for a second oral defense. If the student satisfies the committee with these additional assignments, he or she has successfully passed the qualification exam; otherwise the exam is considered failed and must be completely retaken.
Dissertation - The student needs a dissertation committee, approved by the originating discipline. ‘The department shall then recommend to the dean for approval a research committee composed of the chosen director (who will also normally serve as chairperson of the committee), two or more additional faculty members from the major department, and a representative of each minor.’.
Final Examination - The public and oral defense of the dissertation will be conducted with the student's originating discipline. Approval by originating discipline is required for the awarding of the degree.
Public Colloquium - The student must give a colloquium as part of the Q733 Colloquium Series, advertised at large to the university community, and covering some aspect of the student's research in cognitive science. The research covered may be from any stage of the student's career, including (but not restricted to) the thesis research.